Stephen Wade

ARMP Program Director

Instruments: Banjo, Guitar
Currently Teaching: Summer Programs

Musician and writer Stephen Wade has spent nearly his entire life in study of American folklife, uniting the twin strands of scholarship and the creative arts. Growing up in Chicago in the 1950s and 1960s, Wade was exposed to a number of vernacular musicians who had moved north to the city from the Mississippi Delta and the Southern Appalachians. By the late 1970s, he developed Banjo Dancing, a theatrical performance that combines storytelling, traditional music, and percussive dance. The show, which opened in 1979 and went on to become one of the longest-running, off-Broadway shows in the country, included an invited performance at the White House. Wade’s second theatre piece, On the Way Home, earned the Joseph Jefferson award. In 2003, Wade received the Helen Hayes/Charles MacArthur award for his work as composer, adapter, and musical director of the world premiere of Zora Neale Hurston’s Polk County. Stephen Wade’s book, The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience (University of Illinois Press, 2012), showcases nearly two decades of research during which Wade tracked down the communities, families, and performers connected with iconic Library of Congress field recordings from the American South. The book received the 2013 ASCAP Deems Taylor award and the Association of Recorded Sound Collections award for Best History. In 2012 Wade also released Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition on Smithsonian Folkways. This 2013 Grammy-nominated album explores musical knowledge passed across the generations. He recently served as 2013-2014 artist/scholar in residence at George Washington University (Department of Music) and George A. Miller Visiting Scholar, Center for Advanced Study, University of Illinois. In late 2016, Wade became the first-ever individual recipient of the Society for Ethnomusicology’s Judith McCulloh Public Sector award. His current efforts include the forthcoming release on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings of his latest album, Across the Amerikee: Showpieces from Coal Camp to Cattle Trail, and a film trilogy based on his book, http://beautifulmusicfilmtrilogy.org